Wayne Davis, a long-time friend and supporter of the Greenlee School, passed away on January 11, 2015. He was 94. The former faculty member served as an honorary member of the School’s Advisory Council and received the James W. Schwartz Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism and Communication in 2005.
Married May 28, 1944, to Jeanne Frances West, Davis was the father of three children, Dr. Kenneth W. Davis of Rio Rancho, N.M., Kathleen Jeanne (stillborn in 1950), and Polly Jeanne Montgomery of Omaha, Nebr., who died Aug. 2, 1995. Jeanne died June 25, 1975.
After a long courtship, Wayne married Ferne Gater Bonomi April 20, 1991, and she survives, as do Ken and Ken’s wife, Bette, and three grandchildren, Cassandra (Davis) Hansen, Evan Davis, and Andrea (Montgomery) Becerra. Cassandra and Eric Hansen live in Montclair, Va., Evan and his wife, Rebecca, and their son, William Thomas, in Fairfax, Va. and Andrea and her husband, Gabriel Becerra, live in Madison, Wisc. Andrea’s father, Karl Montgomery, lives in Omaha. Also surviving are two step-sons, Robert Bonomi of Evanston, Ill., and Scott Bonomi of Benecia, Ca.
Davis graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s in journalism and began his career working in community journalism, as a news editor for the Albia Times Republican and Monroe County News. After working a year as a news editor of the Albia newspapers, he leased The Moravia (Iowa) Union, which he published for two and a half years until his induction into the army in 1945. Davis spent 22 months serving in the military during World War II.
> “Wayne Davis inspired generations of students, journalists and colleagues,” Michael Bugeja, director, said. “He was a key supporter of our new public relations degree and upheld the highest standards of mass media. He will be missed.”
Returning as a second lieutenant after 10 months in the Army of Occupation in Germany, he managed The Mille Lacs Messenger in Isle, Minn., for a few months before returning to Iowa in 1947 to purchase The Seymour Herald. During his 30 years in Seymour, he and his wife, Jeanne, were named Master Editor-Publishers by the Iowa Press Association (now the Iowa Newspaper Association) – the first couple to be so honored. Expanding his work in Seymour, he founded, The Allerton Advance, in neighboring Allerton in March 1948 and published it until November 1949. For a few months in 1967 he also served temporarily as managing editor of the Centerville (Iowa) Daily Iowegian.
Following Jeanne’s death – finding that running a “man and wife” newspaper without a wife wasn’t fun anymore – Davis sought something else to do. Persuaded by Ferne that some of the skills he had learned in the newspaper business were transferable, he began work as a public relations coordinator for the Iowa State Center in February 1977. He retired 10 years later as an assistant director of the center, responsible for marketing, public relations and sales.
Early in his tenure at the Iowa State Center, Davis joined the Public Relations Society of America and remained active in the Central Iowa Chapter, serving as a board member and secretary, and producing the chapter newsletter under seven presidents. He passed the national examination for Accreditation in Public Relations in 1992 — at age 71 — and is believed to have been the oldest person to achieve accredited status through examination.
In 1988 Davis accepted a part-time appointment in the ISU Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, serving as a temporary instructor and as an aide to the department chair. When he retired 10 years later from what had become the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, he had served under three chairs and held the title of External Affairs Officer.
Davis received his Master’s in journalism from Iowa State in 1988 and served as a part-time faculty member in the ISU Department of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1988–1998. He was named a friend of the department in 1996 and received the Schwartz Award in 2005. In 2007, Davis received the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Distinguished Service Award.
Davis’s support the Greenlee School never wavered. He attended the Fall 2014 Greenlee School Advisory Council meeting and met with current faculty and students while on campus.
Davis’s cremains were interred next to his first wife and stillborn daughter in the Chariton, Iowa, municipal cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Principia Corporation, 13201 Clayton Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63131, or to the Iowa State University Foundation, Ames, Ia., especially the Iowa State Center Programming Fund and the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.